Battle for Libya airport leaves at least 47 dead, $1.5 billion in damage to 21 planes

The wreckage of an airliner after a battle at Tripoli airport

TRIPOLI: Militiamen have stepped up their assault on Libya’s main airport, controlled by rival fighters, which the health ministry said Monday had left at least 47 dead in a week.

The fighting, which erupted on July 13 and shut Tripoli international airport, also injured 120 people, according to figures for the week until Saturday.

The European Union condemned a fresh outbreak of violence Sunday, two days after the collapse of a truce with the militia controlling the airport, which left five civilians dead according to local media…

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Some background from The Financial Times

There is military base called Camp 27, west of Tripoli, which was used by Gaddafi’s men during the war:

Father and son are now dead, but the bearded men who have taken over Camp 27 are again threatening the Libyan people.

The Libyan Revolutionaries Operations Room (LROR) is a militia answering to the Libyan parliament, the General National Congress.

The group is at the centre of a week-long battle over Tripoli’s international airport, which continued to rage on Sunday. It has the weapons, vehicles and religious zeal to defend the country against its perceived enemies. These include drug dealers, human traffickers or liberal politicians they view as having been loyal to Gaddafi.

“When you talk about the former regime, we’re talking about the men in Gaddafi’s system,” said Abdul Razzaq Dukali, an LROR member. “This place was the base for those who are now against us.”
LROR is a loosely, and murkily, structured organisation, led by two Islamists, Shaaban Hadia and Adel Gharyani, according to politicians, rival militias and security officials. From the well-fortified Camp 27, the group controls a highway, crucial for supply lines to the capital as well as seaside oil installations, such as the refinery and depot in Zawiya.

Those are the Islamists. Arrayed against them are anti-Islamist groups.  Apparently this fight involved anti-Islamist militias from Zintan, who are apparently loyal to the government.

Then there is the  anti-Islamist General Hafter, who did hold the airport at one point, according to FT. He is based in Benghazi but has larger ambitions, a sort of Libyan equivalent of Egyptian el-Sisi, determined to drive out the Islamists.  I am unable to figure out if he is connected to the Zintan group or not.  I would think not, since he also fighting against the government.  

The Economist gives some idea of the damage done:

When the smoke cleared, Zintanis remained in control of the airport, but it is now a shambles of wrecked buildings and burned-out aircraft. The transport ministry says 21 planes, valued at 1.9 billion dinar ($1.5 billion) have been damaged or destroyed. Brave Libyan pilots have flown two Airbuses belonging to Afriqiyah (a state-owned Libyan airline) and a third jet from Libyan Airlines, the flag carrier, to safety in nearby Malta.